There’s yet another paper out on Ashkenazi ancestry. It’s clear that this problem is a bit tricky, because the ancestral groups are not as different as one would like – this makes distinguishing the origins of chromosomal segments more difficult. Drift doesn’t help. So they check out and calibrate various algorithms with simulated scenarios, which makes sense.
Here they’re looking at finer details. When they analyze the origins of the European component of Ashkenazi ancestry, they conclude that most is southern – probably Italian, but that smaller amounts originated from (probably) Western Europe and (more certainly) Eastern Europe: and in that temporal order. They conclude that the Italian admixture slightly predated a late medieval founder event. Different methods came up with somewhat different estimates for the total amount of European ancestry: the local ancestry inference (LAI) approach came up with 53% European, while the GLOBETROTTER analysis came up with an estimate of 67% European ancestry (after calibration by simulations). In their best guess, they split the difference and go for 60% European.
To sum up, their model is that a population from the Levant mixed with Italians, and shortly thereafter moved to the Rhineland (the founding bottleneck), perhaps mixing to some degree with the local Europeans there, and certainly mixing some with Slavic types when they moved to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
How do their conclusions differ from those in the last report? Previously they were thinking that the bottleneck was around 1350, a product of the Black Death and savage persecution – now they’re talking the original settlement in the Rhineland. Previously they had a somewhat lower estimate of European ancestry (~48%, now 60%). I thought these two conclusions likely a couple of years ago.
The big new point, important if correct, is that the admixture with Italians is relatively recent – too recent to have happened back in Roman times. In their model, this main admixture event is 25-55 generations ago, while the founding bottleneck is 25-35 generations ago. It’s not impossible that the admixture happened at the same time as the founding. This I didn’t expect.
How to improve our understanding? aDNA – dig we must!